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Nils Frahm - All Melody (Album Review)

Thursday, 01 February 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

When German minimalist composer Nils Frahm first emerged in the mid-2000s, he was often lumped in the same category as modern classical pianists Olafur Arnalds and Ludovico Einaudi. While such comparisons did him no disservice – both musicians are wildly gifted – Frahm’s penchant for drum machines and glitchy production betrayed his more left-field ambitions.

Frahm has long been fascinated by the Berlin school of electronica, specifically Tangerine Dream, and the exploration of multi-layered sequencer textures. But ‘All Melody’ is arguably the first full solo record where this panoramic approach has come to the fore. Recorded entirely in East Berlin’s Funkhaus complex, renowned for its immaculate acoustics, the album has a decisively analogue feel to it despite its use of synthesisers and digital technology.

In fact, reedy synths and rumbling percussion take centre stage for most of the record, with piano relegated to the background apart from a couple of interlude-style tracks.

Sunson sets the tone texturally: a three-note staccato synth melody persists for most of the piece, but its subtle groove and interweaving countermelodies give it a depth that lures you in.

Frahm released a live album called ‘Spaces’ a few years ago, which makes sense given it’s the prominent feature here. While no track deviates from the set tempo or meditative mood, Frahm explores a lot in the margins. Tracks like A Place and Human Range exemplify this best, anchored around passionate but wordless choral harmonies that occasionally drop back in the mix to make way for tremulous strings or wailing brass.

Then there’s the more crescendo-based pieces, most notably #2, which develops slowly with its crafted ambience and entrancing rhythms, before detouring dramatically towards a sublime conclusion. Drawing from minimalist composers such as Arvo Pärt, Frahm has a taste for dynamics, but it’s the tracks that double back that are most compelling.

The electronics take a back seat on the tracks My Friend the Forest, Fundamental Values and Forever Changeless, which hark back to his earlier solo piano material. Although they disrupt the record’s flow at first glance, the vivid acoustics of the room give them a ghostly eeriness that’s in keeping with the tone of the record.

Only on repeat listens does the record’s coherence become more apparent, linking together the various melodies and motifs transposed on different instruments across the 74 minutes. Connected as a whole, they make for a record that’s perpetually immersive and occasionally overwhelming.

Penultimate track Kaleidoscope is the most stunning and texturally elaborate of all as soothing choral vocals and fluctuating tubular synths mesh with a huge pipe organ. The result is both psychedelic and majestic, filling a seemingly unfillable gap that exists between minimalism, ambient house and everything in between.

‘All Melody’ is too delicately arranged and leisurely paced to be described as a rollercoaster, but you’d be hard pressed to find any modern classical as ambitious and expertly crafted as this. It’s a very early contender for album of the year, granted, but it’ll be an injustice if this is overlooked in 12 months’ time.

Nils Frahm Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon February 19 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Tue February 20 2018 - BRIGHTON Dome Concert Hall
Wed February 21 2018 - LONDON Barbican Hall
Fri February 23 2018 - LONDON Barbican Hall
Sat February 24 2018 - LONDON Barbican Hall
Sun February 25 2018 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Mon February 26 2018 - DUBLIN National Concert Hall
Tue February 27 2018 - BELFAST Mandela Hall
Wed February 28 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Thu March 01 2018 - GLASGOW Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Fri March 02 2018 - GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead

Click here to compare & buy Nils Frahm Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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